A checking account is a bank account into which you deposit money and then withdraw money by writing checks against the account. You use the checks in lieu of cash when buying goods or services. These days most banks also allow you to withdraw money from your checking account by using a debit card. Like checks, the debit card is used in lieu of cash whey you buy goods or services. When you use a checking account, you must maintain a minimum balance and keep track of deposits and expenditures. Approaching these tasks systematically will save you overdraft charges and help you manage your spending responsibly.
Open Your Checking Account, Make Deposits and Write Checks
Choose a bank and visit your local branch to open your checking account. Make sure your bank has locations convenient for making deposits and cash withdrawals. These may be automated teller machines (ATMs) or actual bank branches. Choose a bank that charges the fewest possible fees for account maintenance, check printing and ATM use.
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Make a deposit to your checking account. Your bank will require a minimum opening deposit and may require you to maintain a minimum balance. You may be charged a fee if you allow your checking account balance to go below the minimum.
Use your checks to buy goods and services just as you would use cash. Remember, the total dollar amount of the checks you write must never exceed the funds in your checking account.
Keep track of each check you write in the check register your bank sends to you with your checks. Each time you write a check, record the check number, check date, the name of the payee and the amount of the check. If you use a debit card attached to your checking account, be sure to also record all expenditures you make with the card. At the far right side of your check register is a column for you to keep a running balance of your account. Always keep this balance current so that you'll avoid overdrawing your checking account.
Make regular deposits to your checking account. Keep your deposit slips for reference when you reconcile your checking account each month.
Reconcile Your Checking Account Each Month
Examine your bank statement each month as soon as you receive it. Usually, on the back of your bank statement you will find a form for reconciling your checking account. Here you will compare your checking account balance according to your bank statement with your current checking account balance according to your check register.
Record any monthly fees, overdraft charges or check printing fees in your check register. You'll find these fees on your bank statement. Update your check register balance.
Record the "ending balance" from the front of your bank statement in the appropriate space on the reconciliation form. Then record your current balance from your check register.
Mark cleared checks and deposits in your check register. Place a check mark next to each check and each deposit that has cleared the bank. A special column is provided for this in your check register. Checks that have cleared the bank will be listed on your bank statement.
List outstanding checks and deposits on your reconciliation form. Subtotal your outstanding checks and then your outstanding deposits.
Complete your reconciliation form by subtracting your total outstanding checks from your bank statement ending balance and then adding your total outstanding deposits to this number. The result is your "adjusted bank balance." Your check register balance and your adjusted bank balance should be the same. If they are not, either you or your bank has made an error.
Locate and correct errors, if necessary. Double check all your math. Then compare all check and deposit amounts in your check register to your bank statement. If you find discrepancies, look at your deposit slips and canceled checks to determine the correct transaction amounts. Correct any errors in your check register. If the bank has made any errors, contact the bank and ask for a correction.
If your bank offers online banking services with your checking account, be sure to keep a current record of all checks issued by your bank on your behalf.
Never write a check if you know that you do not have enough money in your account to cover the check. Minimally, you will be charged a hefty overdraft fee. At worst, you could be prosecuted for check fraud.
Things You'll Need
Identification and other documents required by your bank for opening a checking account.
Enough cash to make a minimum deposit
Checks issued by your bank